Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

February 13th.  §

So here we are, Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

It’s the middle of February, far removed from the week at the end of July when the world exploded and everything went to hell. I’d thought we’d be shopping for a house with a pre-approved loan by August. And then we just plain weren’t.

Now we’re talking in fits and starts about renting an apartment, somewhere down the road. Funny how things change. Everything old is new again. Hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

— § —

Scalia is dead.

I don’t know anyone in my circle that is particularly broken up about this. Most everyone is ready to dance gaily on his grave, myself included.

On the one hand, it’s got to be tough—as his family—to know that this is how people felt about him.

At the same time, there must be, at the very least, a hint of satisfaction in knowing that he was so important that virtually nobody is neutral on the fact of his death. The man mattered, whether for bad or for good. He left marks on the lives of many millions.

That is something very few people can say, at the end of their lives.

— § —

My wife and I were talking about confidence earlier. Specifically, how I’ve always had it and it’s something she associates with me.

I didn’t tell her then, though I thought it, that while this has been true for my entire life, it is not true any longer.

Yes, I once was sure that everything was always happening within the framework of the plan that I had for things and for my life, and I felt able to deal with just about any contingency that came along, and I felt as though over the course of decades I’d never deviated too far from where I wanted to be, and I was positive that I was going to get to where I was going, and that I would progress competently along the way.

I once felt all of these things without much doubt.

These days, it’s fair to say that my confidence has been—to be blunt about things—shattered. What do I believe in any longer? Myself? Certainly not. That disappeared sometime in 2014. Paradoxically, within the context of my family life, achieving a sound income and completing my Ph.D. shattered my confidence.

Because these were supposed to be significant items of progress, and instead, they threw my identity, home life, and future into turmoil. Things got steadily worse, rather than finally better.

The result was that I could no longer be sure about anything any longer. Not what I wanted, not what it would mean to others around me, not who I wanted to have around me.

I can now say with some confidence (perhaps the only thing that I’m confident about) that I entered a mid-life crisis upon defending my dissertation and I have not yet fully emerged. In this crisis, everything will be re-evaluated.

I initially wanted to re-evaluate only where and when necessary, to make only the changes necessary. But I’ve had to walk farther and farther back and to examine things under harsher and harsher light until I found myself standing under blinding lights at the edge of a precipice.

I am still examining.

Decisions will have to be made and actions taken, by both of us, before too long. We can’t live in the “hedges” (so to speak) forever.

— § —

What do I want out of the second half of my life?

This remains the key open question.

You arrive, as I have, at forty and you are forced to admit to yourself and others than you cannot ultimately be happy about everything. It is impossible to arrive at a state in which you are pleased with every element of your life, no matter how hard you work, because your ideal states for various elements of your life would be in conflict with one another, irreconcilable.

So it becomes a game of sacrifices. Which things are the things I want to give up on? In which particular ways do I choose to suffer, so that in other ways I can be happy?

Because everyone sacrifices. Everyone suffers. The only question is which sacrifices and forms of suffering you choose, because it is these that enable the other parts of your life to be happy.

My condolences to the person that refuses to sacrifice or to suffer on any point, that won’t compromise anywhere. They’ll also fail to find happiness anywhere, in any part of their life.

Such people are doomed to a life of suffering by virtue of being in eternal purgatory. Nothing is ever achieved, but nothing is ever off the table. Today, for them, never comes, though tomorrow always looms frustratingly near on the horizon.

But it’s an illusion. One, happily, that I am—as the result of all of this—significantly unlikely to fall victim to.

— § —

Some abstract “wants” for the second half of my life:

– I want my family to be intact
– I want myself and my wife to be happy with one another
– I want to stay married
– I want my Ph.D. to matter
– I want to help young people and society
– I want to have a strong connection to academics and public knowledge
– I want to write and to be known for my writing in new ways
– I want to preserve a significant portion of my independence as a brand and laborer
– I want to multiply my income stream at least by a factor of four
– I want to be debt-free
– I want to own multiple houses
– I want to live in a dense urban area
– I want to be involved in many meaningful projects at any given time
– I want my children to one day be proud of my career
– I want to support them well in building the lives that they want
– I want to feel as though I’ve preserved some semblance of self and integrity
– I want space to think
– I want happy memories
– I want to be multilingual
– I want to be expert in multiple subject areas
– I want to remain intellectually active and productive until the end

It’s not yet clear to me which of these things can go together and which are in conflict with one another, much less which of them can actually be achieved, without any particular consideration for the other wants in the list.

— § —

One of the reasons roses are so attractive is that they look as though they’re made out of thin, red leather, and leather is a material that is highly evocative of the emergent experience of life in kingdom animalia, phylum chordata, subphylum vertebrata, class mammalia.

It is as though they are the most mammal-like of all plants in some way.

Or maybe this is weird, I don’t know. I grant that the vegans would be upset. But then, the vegans are all insane and possibly morally bankrupt, so it doesn’t matter much.

Oh, don’t get the vapors. I know, I used to be one of them, and I ran in those circles extensively. Veganism is the behavioral expression of psychological defense mechanisms resulting from childhood trauma, in one way or another.

I’ve never seen a case in which I didn’t believe this to be true, myself included.

— § —

Let’s see, what else can I say to offend or to get myself dismissed as a serious person?

— § —

No matter.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.